Being the Sheriff of Beacon Hills County often meant that he was up and out of the house well before dawn or getting home past midnight, sometimes on the very same day. The wind had been rattling his window for most of the night so it wasn't a hardship to roll out of bed at four thirty in the morning and get ready, all the while hoping that the fall storm hadn't blown too much debris into the streets that could cause accidents. He stopped at Stiles' bedroom and poked his head inside, watching for a moment as his son was almost completely still except for the rise and fall of his chest. It was a rare sight, Stiles was almost always in motion, and it was good to see him safe and resting on the morning of a school day. In retrospect it was kind of amazing that Stiles' grades were as good as they were when there were many nights he stayed out late on pack business. He'd never seen Stiles express weariness at the situation or complain that he had too much to do in a day. The advantage of being a hyperactive teenager, he supposed.
He went downstairs, intent on a decent cup of coffee and scrambled eggs on toast before he left for work, but he paused in the entryway to the living room when he spotted a sleeping body curled up on the couch. He hadn't heard any of the pack come in with Stiles last night, though to be honest he hadn't done much more than poke his head out his bedroom to check in with Stiles that everyone was alright.
He didn't have to get closer to know that it was Isaac on the couch, the hunched posture was a dead giveaway even without the telltale mess of brown curls. This was the second time he'd found Isaac on sleeping on the couch in the morning when there had been a storm in the night and when none of the rest of the pack was there. He frowned for a long moment, his suspicions about Isaac's living situation growing stronger. Most of the pack seemed to have parents that didn't particularly care about where their children were in the middle of the night, if they noticed their absence at all, but for the most part they returned to their own homes to sleep. Allison's family was unique in that her father demanded that she was home by eleven on weeknights. The way Isaac came and went with the pack, always there if Stiles was there, was starting to raise warning flags all over the place.
At some point in the night Isaac had pushed off the quilt he'd sleeping under, a quilt from the upstairs closet which meant that Stiles must have gotten it for him. He walked over to the couch, aware from the sudden change in Isaac's breathing that he was awake, and picked up the quilt and placed it back over him. The number of times he'd found Stiles with his covers on the floor momentarily overrode his senses and before he realized what he was doing he ran a gentle hand through Isaac's hair. Isaac's entire body tensed for a moment but he continued to feign sleep.
He walked away and into the kitchen flipping on the coffee pot while he checked through his cell phone to make sure he still had the number for the Department of Child and Family Services. He did, but he decided to put off calling until he was down at the station. It wasn't a conversation he wanted to have when there was a possibility that Isaac or Stiles could wander into the kitchen at any moment. Cooking breakfast took his mind away from the possibilities for a few minutes; he wound up making extra, quite a bit extra since the appetites of werewolves seemed to surpass those of even regular teenaged boys, and he wrapped a plate for the fridge. He left a note on the counter so they would know the food was for them, along with a reminder that they should try to get to school before the tardy bell rang. Stiles already had a rather impressive collection of tardies, not that he could fault his son entirely. Saving the town from the latest crisis was more important than getting to class on time, even as a parent he had to acknowledge that much.
He checked the living room one last time before he left and wasn't entirely surprised to find the room vacant and the quilt neatly folded at the end of the couch. The chain on the front door was still latched, along with the extra deadbolt he'd installed after learning about werewolves - not that it would stop a werewolf from breaking through, but it would give him an extra moment to get the shotgun he had preloaded with wolfsbane bullets. Stiles had told him, in the tone of what was both a truth and a joke, that werewolves seemed to favor windows over doors, and sure enough when he checked the windows the far window in the living room was closed but unlocked. He left it unlocked in case Isaac decided to come back and then finished getting ready for work.
Twenty minutes later he was across town, relieved to see that the major streets hadn't collected too much debris, which would make the day much easier for himself and for his deputies. He took the report from the nightshift, all quiet for a nice change of pace, and two hours after his shift started he was settled in his office with a stack of files. The station itself was almost was almost deserted as his deputies went out to patrol. He picked up the phone, paused for a moment as he considered what he was doing, and then dialed the number he'd looked up earlier in the day.
"This is Sheriff Stilinski from the Beacon Hills County Sheriff's Department. I'd like to speak to the case worker for Isaac Lahey. That's L-A-H-E-Y," he said, and then was put on hold. He didn't really expect to get much information from the case worker immediately, he knew as well as anyone that the system was overburdened considering the number of children who were in state custody.
"Deonne Robinson speaking," a woman said shortly after the hold music cut off. "How may I help you?"
"I'm Sheriff Stilinski. I called in February regarding a teenager who needed to be placed following the death of his father. I have some concerns about his current living situation. His name is Isaac Lahey," he said, drumming his fingers against his thigh.
"Give me a moment to pull the file," she said and there was a shuffling sound through the phone. "Ah, yes, Isaac. Unfortunately I don't know much about his current situation. He has my number and knows to call me if he wants somewhere to stay."
He frowned. "I wasn't aware that sixteen year olds were given the option of not being placed with a family or in a group home, not without going through emancipation proceedings first."
"They're not. I placed Isaac with a foster family the day after you alerted us to his situation, drove him there myself. The very next day I get a call from the family to inform me that Isaac disappeared in the night and none of the other children in the home saw him leave despite the fact that they were sharing a room with him. Every time I attempted to approach him at Beacon Hills High School he would disappear. Finally I left him my card and a message with the front office, letting him know that if he needed help he should call me. I check with the school every now and then, and amazingly his attendance isn't half bad considering the situation," she said and then gave a heavy sigh. "It's far from conventional, but I didn't feel that it would help to send officers of the law to collect him when he would just disappear again."
"I can understand that," he said grudgingly. He did understand, but he didn't like it at all.
"Has there been a problem? Is he in the custody of your office?" she asked, sounding both resigned and concerned.
"No. He's become friends with my son and has stayed over at my house a couple of times, which was why I was concerned about where he was staying the rest of the time," he said, thinking quickly. "Actually, I was wondering about the possibility of fostering him with my family. I've been a licensed foster care provider for many years, though we haven't taken a child for quite some time."
There was a brief silence on the other end of the line. "I'd have to get confirmation of that, but if everything checks out and Isaac wants to stay with you, I don't see why not."
He nodded to himself, relieved that something might be easy for once. "If you'll let me know for certain I will ask him. Now, I'm not at all sure he'll agree, but it would better than how he's living now." He honestly didn't know where Isaac stayed when he wasn't with the pack; he had assumed at first that Isaac had been placed in a group home that didn't care much about curfews.
"I'll try to get back to you by the end of the day. If I can ask now, though, what was the reason you haven't fostered in so long?" she asked.
"My wife died seven years ago," he said, his chest catching slightly with the words.
"And what changed so that you feel able to foster a child again?" she asked. "I don't mean to pry, but it is relevant to the situation."
He thought for a moment, his lips twitching when he thought that at least part of the truth was werewolves. "I had a long talk with my son, two months ago, and we're both in a place where we're ready to start rebuilding our family."
He received a return call from the case worker late the same afternoon informing him that if he wanted to foster Isaac that getting the paperwork through shouldn't be an issue. He thanked her and jokingly asked that she wait at least a week or two until she did a home visit. At least he was mostly joking; he wasn't sure what he was going to do if the case worker came over and there were werewolves bleeding on the living room floor. He left a message on Stiles' phone asking if he wouldn't mind dropping by the station to have dinner, just the two of them, and then pulled out the stack of files that had accumulated after the latest in a string of small store robberies.
An hour and a half later Stiles' showed up with two bags of fast food, a slightly disappointing and maddening prospect when his burger turned out to be a veggie burger with a side of bean salad and coleslaw. "You're on my list," he said with a shake of his finger as he bit into his burger.
Stiles only grinned, which was typical since he never much been cowed by his father's stern demeanor. "We're eating healthy, remember? I've only been going on about this for the past three years."
"Uh huh, which is why when I take out the trash I find burger wrappers and empty containers of curly fries," he said, knowing his son's not-so-secret weakness for curly fries.
"It's the wolves," Stiles said with fond exasperation. "They have the most ridiculous metabolism and I've got to feed them something. I'd have a mutiny on my hands if I tried to put them on the health food plan."
He raised an eyebrow. "You should be concerned about your father instigating the mutiny," he said in a mock threatening tone. "I could run a campaign of curly fries and I'm pretty sure you would be outvoted."
"Maybe until Derek got wind of your evil plans to take over his pack." Stiles smirked. "So, what's with the super secret meeting away from the pack? Erica was all worked up that you were going to kidnap me and take me out of the state to get me away from the pack. You're not going to do that, right? Because if that's your plan, it's a really bad one. They'd just follow us and I hate to tell you this, but I wouldn't exactly be on your side in the matter."
"Well, to start with, it wouldn't be kidnapping since I have full custody of you and you're a minor. And secondly, no. You told me you were in for the long haul and I believe you," he said. He should have been surprised that any of the pack would even think that of him, but he had seen that for the most part the kids in the pack didn't trust easily.
Stiles bobbed his head and took a sip of his soda. "Good. That's good. So, what's up? The neighbors aren't complaining, are they? Because we're really quiet when we're coming and going in the night."
"No, nothing like that," he paused as he considered the best way to approach the topic before Stiles derailed him completely. "Isaac stayed over on the couch last night."
"Yeah, you said you didn't mind if some of the pack crashed at our house overnight occasionally," Stiles said, but the way he shifted in his seat meant that he already knew what his dad was getting at.
"I checked with social services and it seems that Isaac disappeared in February from the foster home where he was placed," he continued. "Do you have any idea where he's been staying since then?"
Stiles shrugged and shook his head. "I always figured he stayed with Derek."
"At the Hale house? The one that's falling apart in the woods?" he asked, sincerely hoping that wasn't the case. He'd seen werewolves heal wounds, but if that house collapsed down on them he wasn't sure they would survive long enough to heal themselves.
"No, Hunters started staking it out. We stay away from there," Stiles said and then sighed. "I can't tell you where the pack den is. Derek would have to do that."
He frowned. He'd read the Harry Potter books with Stiles when Stiles had been younger and some of the stuff had stuck with him. "What, like magic?"
Stiles stared in confusion and then laughed. "No, I just mean that the Alpha of the pack is the only one who is allowed to reveal the location of the pack den to non-pack. Though it would be really cool if we could enforce that magically. I'll have Danny and Lydia help me look into it."
"What I'm asking, if you'd let me, is if the pack den a suitable location for people to actually be living. Electricity? Heat? Running water?" he asked, already reading the answer in the unhappy twist of Stiles' mouth. "No? Okay."
"Derek's a little bit, well, let's just say he lacks some of the attachments that the rest of have to modern living," Stiles said thoughtfully. "Actually, I don't think he's really lived anywhere like a house or an apartment since his family was murdered. I don't think he realizes that he could, or maybe he just doesn't want to be reminded all the time."
He sighed and nodded because it made too much sense. It had taken them years to sort themselves out after the death of his wife. If he had lost Stiles too, all in one fell swoop, he couldn't imagine ever going back to anything that resembled a normal life. "I know it's been quite some time since we've fostered a child-"
"Yes!" Stiles interrupted, bounding to his feet and letting his sandwich wrapper fall to the floor. "You want to foster Isaac, that's what you were going to say, right?"
"Would you be alright with that?" he asked uncertainly. The last thing he wanted to do was leave Stiles competing for attention or bring conflict into the pack.
Stiles just grinned. "Of course I would. First of all it would make my life so much easier. Honestly, I swear half the pack wouldn't function without someone herding them around, and that totally does include Scott. Second, I've always wanted a little brother, and even if Isaac is taller than me, he would still be my little brother. Third, if you could legally take the rest of the pack in I'd be advocating for that, but Isaac is the one most in need of some normalcy in his life right now. Well, Derek notwithstanding, but you kinda have to be sneaky when it comes to getting him to do things for his own good."
He sighed, having figured as much regarding Derek. Maybe at some point in the future, when he'd gotten to know Derek a little better, he'd suggest to Derek that he should consider an apartment - ostensibly for appearance's sake. Stiles wasn't the only person who could be sneaky. "You understand this isn't going to be like if it was Scott coming to live with us, right? Isaac's been through some pretty rough stuff."
"I know, dad. More than I ever wanted to," Stiles said, his smile having fallen away.
They sat in silence for a moment and he tried to decide if this really was the right thing to do for their family. "Do you think Isaac will even want to live with us?" he asked, poking at his bean salad with the tines of his plastic fork.
Stiles shrugged. "Only one way to find out."
The next night he arrived home later than he'd intended by a few hours. A call for backup had come over the radio thirty minutes before his shift was due to be over and he'd raced across town in hopes that they'd finally caught the robbers that had been menacing main street for the past two weeks. Instead he found three men who had been in a car accident over a parking space and had gotten into a physical altercation instead of trading insurance information. One of them had actually had the audacity to throw a punch at him when he'd stepped in to stop the fight, though at least the bruise on his shoulder was covered by his uniform. Stiles always got a little bit twitchy when he came home from work wounded. The fear that his son could lose his one remaining parent was something they both shared.
He heard the tv on in the living room and after he'd settled himself in for the night he poked his head in to see what was going on. There was a pile of dvds on the floor next to the tv and two-thirds of the pack gathered on the couch or on the floor. Lydia wrinkled her nose when Erica threw some popcorn at her and Danny and Jackson were playfully bumping elbows as they tussled over a box of candy. Stiles, Boyd, and Isaac were on the floor, Stiles in the middle of an in-depth explanation about the merits of the various Spiderman continuities while Isaac occasionally managed to get in a word of disagreement. Boyd just seemed amused by the entire argument, but they both stopped to listen when he offered his occasional opinion.
Leaving them alone, at least until they were done with their movie, he went into the kitchen and found a plate of leftovers still warm in the oven. He was grateful for the food and for the consideration, but it slightly spoiled his brief illusion that the kids in the pack could still just play around and be kids for one night. The more he observed them the more he saw that they all tried to take on the weight of the world, even when he discounted the fact that they were in semi-regular battles that involved guns, crossbows, and the claws and teeth of werewolves.
By the time he finished eating and wandered back over to the living room the end credits were rolling and the kids had turned their attentions entirely to a lively discussion about Gwen Stacy verses MJ Watson, a conversation which Lydia was unexpectedly dominating. He watched in an amusement as Lydia outlined her argument, her fingers rising individually as she moved from point to point. At the end of her impassioned defense of MJ she was showered with pieces of popcorn thrown from various angles, though she was laughing when the onslaught was over.
"If I had known this was the geek pack, I would have found a different werewolf to bite me," Jackson complained from where he was now pressed between Stiles and Danny on the couch.
Stiles grinned. "Oh shut up, you love us and you know it."
"I found Mary Jane to be quite compelling, actually," he said, stepping into the room and receiving the full attention of the gathered pack.
"That's just because you haven't seen the new Spiderman movie, dad," Stiles said, shaking his head in disapproval as he extricated himself from the couch and stumbled over to the dvd player to hit the eject button.
He smiled in return and turned his attention back to the group gathered around the couch. "Isaac, can I speak with you in my office for a few minutes?"
Isaac turned to face him, his expression briefly terrified before his masked it with something that was probably intended to aggression but came closer to a tense grimace. He pushed himself to his feet slowly but sent a pleading look to Stiles instead of stepping closer.
Stiles sighed and put the dvd case on the pile and walked over to Isaac's side. "Come on. It's nothing bad, I promise," he said. Isaac still didn't move until Stiles slipped his hand around Isaac's wrist and started walking, leaving Isaac with the choice of breaking away or coming with them.
He sat down behind his desk in his office, noticing that Isaac stayed near the door in case he needed to bolt. Stiles stood next to Isaac, though he'd dropped Isaac's wrist once they were all inside the office.
"Isaac, I became aware yesterday morning that your placement in the foster system didn't work out," he began, leaving off the part where that had been eight months ago. "I spoke with your case worker and she's willing to place you here, if that's something you want."
Isaac stared at him blankly for a moment and then turned to look at Stiles with the same pleading expression from earlier.
Stiles shook his arms up and down impatiently. "Basically it will be just like now, but you'd stay with us at nights and on the days we don't have school instead of moping around with Derek in the abandoned subway station. A step up, I would think."
"The pack den is in the abandoned subway station?" he asked, mostly managing to keep the horror out of his voice. There wasn't a lot of violent crime in Beacon Hills, but it still had it's rougher neighborhoods and the entrance to the subway station was right in the center of where eighty percent of the drug and gang violence calls came from. Sure, Isaac and Derek were werewolves and had a step up on most gang members but that wouldn't stop them from getting shot.
"No?" Stiles asked, his cringe saying the exact opposite. "I didn't say that at all."
He sighed, more determined than ever to get both Isaac and Derek out of that place when he feasibly could. "Anyway, Isaac, you'd have the same rules as Stiles. I'd expect to know when you're out late running with the pack, do your homework, go to school, help out around the house a bit."
"Why?" Isaac asked, his voice catching in his throat. He cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. "I mean, why me? I'm better off than most of the pack. Erica and Lydia's parents barely realize they exist, Boyd's parents don't care what he does as long as his work is done for their family business. Why do you want to help me and not them?"
Stiles slipped his hand back around Isaac's wrist and gave his hand a short squeeze before pulling him over to the pair of chairs in front of the desk.
Considering his words carefully he ran his hand through his hair before he responded. "As unfortunate as that is, the most I can do to help them is offer them a safe, temporary place to stay when they need one. My point is that even if their parents perhaps aren't as aware as they could be, they still have an adult to turn to when they need something."
Isaac looked down and chewed on his lip before he responded. "Derek's my Alpha. He takes care of the entire pack."
Stiles immediately shot his dad a look that he could easily read as a warning to not insult Derek's care-taking abilities, regardless of the fact that they were apparently living in an abandoned subway station. "I understand that, and I'm glad he's been helping you, but that's not really the same as having an older adult around. I'd feel more comfortable with the pack's current situation if you had a stable home. It would also help when it comes time for you to start applying to colleges. I know you're still in your junior year, but that comes up faster than you'd expect."
The way Isaac shifted on the edge of his chair and averted his eyes told him that Isaac hadn't planned on applying for college at all. Isaac turned to Stiles, his eyebrows arched apprehensively.
"Why don't we call Derek and see what he thinks," Stiles said, giving both of them a tight smile as he held the cell phone up to his ear. "Hey, Derek." Stiles fell silent for all of thirty seconds before he rolled his eyes and tipped his head from side to side. He stood up and passed the phone over the desk. "It's for you."
He arched his eyebrows but accepted the phone from Stiles and held it to his ear. "Hello?"
"You're seeking guardianship over Isaac, is that correct?" Derek's voice came through the phone.
"How did you know that?" he asked, because Stiles had promised he wouldn't say anything and now that he was in the werewolf loop Stiles had been overly intense about keeping promises made between them.
"That doesn't matter," Derek said. Instead of a growl, like he'd half expected, Derek's voice was cold and almost detached. "Is it true?"
"It is," he said. "And for the record I'm not seeking your permission."
Derek laughed, low and short. "Good. For the record, I don't object. I just wanted to make something clear between us first."
"And that is?" he asked when Derek didn't continue.
"I understand that you are Stiles' father and that he's very attached to you. Stiles is my second and there is very little I wouldn't do for him. However, Isaac is under my direct protection. If you harm him, I will have absolutely no qualms about ripping you apart. Do you understand?" Derek asked. If his voice had been detached before it was now on fire with his intensity.
He leaned back in his chair and considered both of the boys in front of him. "I understand. However, that goes both ways. I get that werewolf culture is a little bit different, but I will not tolerate outright abuse of any of the members of your pack. It might be more difficult for me to kill you, but have no doubts that I will devote my very last breath to doing so," he said, ignoring Stiles' wide eyes and the way he was frantically waving his arms to tell him to stop.
"Then we have reached an understanding. In most situations I would say that humans have no idea what it means to have a pact with an Alpha werewolf, but you seem to be educated on the topic. Pass the phone to Isaac," Derek said.
He took a moment to stare at Stiles' phone is disbelief but stood and passed it back across the desk to Isaac.
Isaac took the phone and held it to his ear. He sat absolutely still while he listened for approximately a minute and then hung up without saying a word to Derek. "If you want me to stay here, I will," he said, his jaw set grimly as he passed the phone back to Stiles.
"Only if you want to," he said, not wanting to push his luck but not wanting Isaac to agree just because Derek had ordered him to either.
"I do," Isaac said, the lie in the words obvious with the quick flash of his eyes.
Stiles stood. "Okay, great. Details and paperwork in the morning? Good," he said, motioning for Isaac to go with him.
"Go on, go be with the pack. We'll work out the rest tomorrow," he said, nodding to Isaac when he didn't leave the chair. He watched as Isaac gave him a glance he could only call suspicious as he left. He leaned back in his chair, listening for several long minutes until the noise level in the living room rose again.
The conversation had given him a great deal to think about, about how the pack itself functioned and the role of the Alpha, as well as the leadership role Stiles seemed to play. What stuck out most of all, even more than the completely unsubtle death threats from Derek, was the uncomfortably outraged remarks Isaac had made about the living situations of the other pack members.
He went to bed later that night, still running over the whole thing in the mind the way he would a case, turning over details while searching for a solution. The rest of the pack had dispersed within half an hour, but when he peeked inside Stiles' bedroom he found Stiles and Isaac in Stiles' bed, Stiles running his hand slowly through Isaac's hair. Isaac's eyes traveled to the door and he hunched down, almost hiding behind Stiles, and then watched apprehensively like he expected to be ordered out of the room.
Stiles twisted around to see what had captured Isaac's attention. "Night dad," he said, and then yawned.
"Goodnight boys," he said, once again coming to the conclusion that the bed sharing thing had more to do with comfort than with sex. He left and settled into his own bed. Sleep didn't come until early morning hours when the pieces all slipped together in his mind and he realized what he could do.
The pack had most of their attention focused on where Stiles was standing at the front of living room, Stiles rocking back and forth on his feet while he waited for them to finish getting settled. "Alright, my dad has a couple of things he wants to say to us, so, uh, here he is."
He smiled wryly as his son went back to the couch and wedged himself in between Scott and Danny. "Thank you for the introduction. Now, as you're all aware, I am perfectly fine with any members of the pack hanging out here or sleeping here when you need to do so. Since that has wound up with my living room floor being occupied more often than not, I decided that it was time to update the situation. I intend to convert the spare bedroom into a place for the pack to sleep."
It was a room he'd been using for storage for years, almost never opening the door because it had been his wife's office space. He liked to think that she would prefer the space to be used for something good, like housing a werewolf pack, instead of being left covered in dust.
"You are all free to come and go as you please, you don't need to tell me or Stiles. However, that comes with a certain number of caveats," he said, pausing when Erica's hand shot up. "Yes?"
"Caveats?" she asked, her nose wrinkling as she turned to glance at her packmates.
"He means like conditions. Rules," Boyd answered, and then gave him an uncertain glance, like maybe he shouldn't have answered for him.
He nodded. "That's right." And now he was having flashbacks to all of the times he'd gone to the elementary schools to tell the kids what he did as a sheriff.
"Like how Stiles texts you to tell you where he is and who is with him?" Erica asked.
"Exactly. Actually, that's the first one. You will all let me know if you're planning on staying here on a regular basis, and if that's so and you're out past midnight, you text me to let me know where you are. Same goes for Scott's house. They have a little less space but Melissa has offered her house as a place to stay as well. The idea is that if you're not at your parents' houses, either Melissa and I should know where you are, that way if someone is missing or there's a problem, we all know as soon as possible. Does that sound reasonable?" he asked. He received a lot of nods in return.
"You're seriously just opening your home to a bunch of kids, most of whom are werewolves?" Jackson asked.
He nodded. "I am. I've heard some about how you all limped through your first year as a pack and I'd like to do what I can to prevent that from happening again. With more resources available to you, I'd like to keep you all alive at least until you've graduated high school."
Several members of the pack shifted in their seats and glanced around at each other, their gazes inevitably ending up on Stiles.
"What are the other caveats?" Lydia asked primly.
"Pretty much the same ground rules you probably have with your parents. You do your homework and go to school. No alcohol at the house, no drugs period. If you're having sex, use a condom and common sense. My bedroom and office are off-limits. If your parents are going to wonder where you are, make sure they know where you're staying," he finished with a shrug. From the stares he was getting he realized that these possibly weren't the same rules that many of them had at their homes. "Any questions?"
Slowly people started to shake their heads and look up at him with uncertain smiles.
"Well, in that case, consider yourselves conscripted to help clean up the spare bedroom so we can put some furniture in there," he said, motioning to the staircase.
Lydia grinned and bounced to her feet. "Why don't you let us take care of that? Show us the space, we'll take care of the rest," she said as she tugged on Danny and Allison's hands.
"No pink," Boyd said as he stood up and followed the trio out the door. "No lavender, no puce, no peach, and no fuchsia."
Stiles rolled his eyes but let Isaac pull him up to his feet. "You know how we told you that Lydia is human? That's not quite true. She's terrifyingly smart and turns into some kind of demon when you turn her loose on a project. You may have thought this would have been as simple as putting a few beds in the room, and I can understand why you'd think that. It's an easy mistake to make. But, no. You've unleashed the Lydia. Good job, dad."
He laughed at Stiles' dismayed expression. "I'm sure we'll survive. Now go lend a hand and put the boxes in the east corner of the basement. Let me know if you need something."
"I guess we know how we're spending our weekend," Stiles muttered, though he and the rest of the boys left the room without further complaint.
"You do know that your dad is insane, right? No one does this," Jackson said in the hallway, still loud enough to be heard from the living room.
He didn't get to hear Stiles' response but he smiled and wandered back to his office to get a few things done while the pack was occupied. In a roundabout way, Jackson was right. There weren't many people who would take in whole passel of teenagers, particularly not teenaged werewolves, but it felt right. It felt like something he could do for his son and something that had been slowly bridging around the enormous hole left in their family.
When he finally peeked in the finished room, Isaac, Lydia and Boyd finishing making up the pair of bunk beds with complementary comforters, he was impressed and struck with a little bit of loss. It had been years since anyone who had an eye for interior decorating had done anything to the house. He and Stiles kept things tidy and clean, but almost all of the rooms had been left exactly as they'd been when his wife had died. The new bedroom was perfect for a group of teenagers, the colors bright but not gender specific, and the furniture arranged to leave the middle of the room open. On the wall next to the door there was a large bulletin board that already had a few pictures and pieces of paper tacked up. The tall dressers at the end of the bunk beds, along with the new shelving installed in the closet, gave them plenty of storage space. From the original furniture, only his wife's desk was left, set in between the bunk beds directly under the window.
"How does it look?" Lydia asked as she finished putting on the last pillowcase and tossed the pillow up onto one of the top bunks. "I mean, it's not really finished, but I figured that we could all add posters and pictures."
"It's very nice," he said and smiled at her. "A lot better than the living room floor at least."
Isaac wrinkled his nose as he dropped his backpack in the closet and backed out of the space.
"You two, go get the rest of the pack and go running in the woods or something. I'll open a window and turn a fan on. It won't be so bad tonight," Lydia said, catching Isaac on his shoulder and gently pushing him from the room. Boyd followed him immediately, quicker on his feet than he seemed at first glance. "The paint smells a lot stronger to them. Derek says they'll get better at controlling how strong their senses are eventually, but I keep telling them that they have to practice or they'll go their whole lives as substandard werewolves that can't even walk into a bath and body shop."
He couldn't quite help smiling in response. He was fairly sure that Isaac and Boyd would be happy enough to have a reason not to go into a bath and body shop. "I'll go dig out the fan," he said, leaving Lydia adjusting the rug so that it was more exactly parallel to the beds.
After a week or so having the pack room he started to get a sense of who was likely to stay over at nights. Isaac claimed the bottom bunk on the bed furthest away from the door and one evening when they're eating dinner even volunteers the information that he shared a bunk bed with his brother when they were little. Isaac only slept in his bed about every few nights though, more often winding up in Stiles' bed some time before morning. The nights he did stay in his bed were usually the nights that Erica slept over and stayed in the same bed with him. The beds were a little bit narrow for sharing, but none of the pack seemed to mind sleeping almost directly on top of each other.
Erica stayed over intermittently, more often on the weekends than other times, and she'd quickly become a regular fixture at meal times. She had explained that her mom was a flight attendant and usually wasn't home on the weekends, and her dad lived in Los Angeles. When she wasn't sharing a bed with Isaac she typically slept on the bunk directly above Isaac's bed. Boyd took that same bed when he stayed over, though his work schedule kept him out late more often than the others.
To his unending surprise Lydia was one of the more frequent pack members to stay over. She'd claimed the other bottom bunk, her stuffed giraffe on the pillow as a reminder to the rest of the pack that it was her space. He hadn't asked Lydia why she seemed much happier staying with them than at her own house, particularly when her family was quite well off, but he had the suspicion that she had been quite lonely before she had the pack.
Danny and Jackson stayed over occasionally, though usually only after a rough night out with the pack. Scott only stayed the night when they had pack business that ran into the morning hours, usually requiring one or more trips out into the woods, though he made regular appearances during the evenings. Even Derek came around more often, ate dinner with them from time to time, even when it was only the trio that actually lived in the house sitting down at the table at nine at night with a plate of sandwiches.
The only pack member who didn't stay around at night was Allison. She almost always arrived and left by herself and she seemed more and more reluctant every time she had to leave to go home. He walked her out one night while the werewolves left through the backyard into the woods. "Everything alright at home?" he asked when they reached her car on the street. He didn't know exactly what he'd do if she answered that it wasn't; he'd heard enough in passing by now to know that her father was a force to be reckoned with.
She sighed and leaned against the passenger door where she'd just thrown her backpack inside the car. "I don't want to lose him too, but I can't see him ever making peace with my belonging to a werewolf pack. If I were to get bitten one day, if things went really wrong, I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't even be able to look at me. Sometimes it's just hard to know that it would be so easy for him to walk away."
He considered that for a moment, a not insignificant part of him hoping that this conversation wasn't going to end with Allison in tears, and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "It probably doesn't help, but I think that would be the hardest thing he would ever do. I know not all parents are the same, but if it had been Stiles who had flashed me his fangs and told me he was a werewolf, I would have been okay with it. Maybe not right away, that's a hell of an adjustment to make, but I wouldn't have ever loved him any less."
Allison arched her eyebrows sadly. "But you haven't spent your whole life hating and killing werewolves."
"No, I haven't," he agreed. "But my father was a police officer, and his father before him. If Stiles was a criminal, someone who I believed had committed heinous crimes, I would disapprove of what he'd done but I would still love him. That doesn't go away."
"He loved my mother too, and sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if it hadn't happened right then. Maybe he would have tried to hide her," Allison said, bringing both of her hands up to rub at her forehead.
He took a slow breath, but before he could ask exactly what Allison meant by that she'd flung her arms around his shoulders in a tight hug. He patted her back and was once again grateful that while Stiles would give him a hug every now and then, he wasn't much one for crying on shoulders.
"Thank you for walking me to my car," she said, her voice hitching slightly but not in open tears. "I should go before I'm late."
He stepped up on the curb and watched as Allison drove away, a thoughtful frown on his face by the time she'd reached the stop sign at the end of the street and turned out of sight. When he came back inside, locking the front door but going around to check that the back window had been left unlocked so Isaac and Erica could climb in when they got back from running with the pack, he found Stiles at the kitchen table. Stiles had a physics textbook open but was rubbing his eyes rather than reading.
He sat down across from Stiles and waited until Stiles looked up. "If you can tell me, I'd like to know what happened with Allison's mother. Apparently there's more to that than what was included in the medical and police reports."
Stiles sighed and flipped his textbook closed. "Do you want the quick and gruesome version or the full version where some of us nearly die and the pack does a few questionable things?"
"Full version," he said without hesitation though while bracing himself to hear about his son facing ridiculous peril and probably breaking at least three laws.
"Well, remember how we told you that Jackson used to be a lizard?" Stiles asked, and the tale only grew stranger from there.